Prius Ventura

wpid-wp-1417314295269.jpegWell our plans changed somewhat since the last time we posted. Instead of heading for Mexico we have been traveling around Arizona, New Mexico, and Texas by car. The reason is that we were invited to spend Thanksgiving with Elise, Chris and family which was an offer we couldn’t turn down but with a week left to go before Thanksgiving took place we had to think of something to do. Elise loaned us her car and we drove back to Arizona visiting Sedona, Phoenix, Tucson, and then White Sands National Park in New Mexico before returning to Albuquerque. We chose to take the car rather than the bike because we could cover more ground comfortably and wouldn’t have to take weather into account.

Our first stop as mentioned was Sedona. It’s a very picturesque valley with red earth coloured stack style rock formations and it’s a hot spot for the esoteric crowd. There are supposed to be four energy vortexes in the region which are marked on maps and easily accessible by short hikes. We hiked through one when we walked up Bell Rock, you’re supposed to feel energised when near the vortex but to be honest neither of us had any special feeling. Every now and then along the trail we passed a person in some sort of vortex coma with outstretched arms facing a bush with closed eyes and a huge grin on their face but other than that it was just full of normal people out for a hike.

After Sedona we spent the night in Phoenix and the next day visited the Scottsdale area of town before heading off to Tucson further south. This was when we began to see the Seguaro cactus for the first time. I had imaged that this Wild West iconic symbol was rare for some reason but it is definitely not. They cover the landscape like trees some reaching a height 10 metres, it’s an impressive sight. Once again we stayed at a motel for around 40 dollars and the next day we drove to the Desert Museum just west of Tucson. Of all the attractions we have visited so far this would be one of the top 5 I’d recommend to others to visit, especially good for children. It is mostly set outdoors with a couple of indoor exhibits and basically lets you get up close to all of the various kinds of wildlife and plant life found in the Sonora Desert. See the pictures below.

As we left Tucson we took a detour around Davis-Monthan Airforce Base otherwise known as the Boneyard. It’s where the Airforce stores old and unused aircraft, although we couldn’t drive onto it seeing the aircraft parked nose to tail from the perimeter fence was good enough to appreciate the sheer size of the place and the second thought I had was what a waste of resources it seemed to me seeing all these aircraft sitting idle just rotting away.

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White Sands National Park

On the way back to Albuquerque we stopped at White Sands National Park, the sand is white because it’s powdered gypsum. The drive into the park is a big loop and only takes about 40 minutes to complete but there are plenty of places to stop along the way so we ended up staying around 2 hours. At first it was disorientating to drive on the compacted white sand, it’s so white it looks exactly like snow and every time you turn a corner your brain is automatically expecting the car to slide or have bad traction but there is actually plenty of grip. The White Sands park is just south of where the first nuclear detonation was around 60 years ago. It’s called the trinity site and is open to the public to visit once a year in April.

The whole area of southern New Mexico seems to be a little sensitive because on our way back we had to stop at two homeland security checkpoints for random checks. It could also be something to do with being close to the Mexican border and they were searching for illegal immigrants however after a couple of questions we were on our way.

Back in Albuquerque we eagerly awaited our first Thanksgiving. Everyone had to bring something so Franziska and I made a Baileys cheesecake it was easy enough to make but I put in a little too much Baileys. Actually about four times more than the recipe recommended. Luckily there were no complaints the next day at the table although the first bite usually saw the person wince slightly at the amount alcohol inside, somehow all plates were still returned empty.

Elise is a great cook and pulled off a great show managing to feed 12 adults at one table and 5 children who sat at a separate table in the kitchen. We began eating at around 3pm and didn’t leave the table until around 8pm. It was like an endless Christmas dinner more food just kept appearing at the table. Fantastic.

When Thanksgiving was over we decided to go to Dallas Texas for a couple of days to visit Andrew an old school friend of mine who moved there about seven years ago. On the way we stopped at Roswell New Mexico as it is famous for the UFO crash in 1947 but we were disappointed, it’s quite run down and rough. There is a UFO museum which we went to check out but once inside the front door you could see that it was just a collection of paper mache UFOs, aliens, and newspaper articles. Not worth the 13 dollars entrance fee in our opinion so we went and had a nice lunch instead. During our stay I also found out that the alleged UFO crash didn’t even happen at Roswell it happened at Corona which is about 120 miles away! Only the clean-up was coordinated from Roswell.

Dallas was interesting to visit, oddly enough the two days we spend there were two of the coldest days we’ve experienced since we started but it didn’t stop us getting out and having a look around. For a laugh we visited South Fork Ranch which is the house in the intro to the TV show Dallas. It is much smaller in real life than it appears on TV and much closer to the road. Apparently they used trick photography when filming the aerial intro shot to make the driveway appear longer. We also visited Dealey Plaza where JFK was shot. There is an X drawn on the road at the point where he was hit, it’s an odd feeling to stand and look up at the 6th floor window where the shooter reportedly was.

Coincidently the second day that we spent in Dallas was Andrew’s birthday so we took it easy and spent the day putting up the Christmas lights on his house much to his two young daughter’s delight and later that evening we all went out to dinner. Texas was one of those places like Saskatchewan where people we met in other states before it always said “hey why are you going there it’s just boring and flat” and in Texas’s case especially “they think they’re better than the rest of the States”. Generic stereotypes. However just like always we found the stereotypes to be wrong, Texans are just warm and friendly people who like to eat a lot of BBQ. Someday I’d like to visit it again to explore some more.

At the moment we’re back in Albuquerque and planning to leave tomorrow (on the bike this time). We estimate that we’ll cross into Mexico on Monday or Tuesday, three or four days from now and head down the Pacific coast. I personally feel that the adventure really begins now, Canada and the US have been great but the culture here isn’t that different from home. Neither of us can speak Spanish either so we’re looking forward to diving in the deep end.

 

Utah, Arizona, and New Mexico

Fuer die deutsche Version bitte hier klicken.

 

 

It was a short ride up to the town of Hurricane in Utah from Las Vegas. I for one was excited to enter the mainly Mormon state, wondering if I would notice any major differences. What we found out is, the people are friendly, towns are clean and roads are in good condition nothing supernatural about Utah. In fact it had very impressive landscape for a European to see. Up until now aside from the desert area in California just before Nevada all of the various types of landscape we have seen are similar to different parts of Europe. But when you get to Utah you’ve left the familiar and entered something completely new. It would be like driving to the Middle East and visiting countries like Jordan, that’s how I imagine it anyway. Hurricane was our springboard into Zion National Park, this is a must see park if you’re ever in the region check out the pictures for a better idea. Once out on the other side of the park we had to decide whether or not to drive north to Bryce Canyon or turn south towards the Grand Canyon. Due to the fact that Bryce would be a significant gain in altitude for us and temperatures there had recently been in the 5 to -5 degrees Celsius range we opted to skip it and instead hopefully visit it sometime in the future.

We spent the night in Kanab southern Utah and the next day drove to the Grand Canyon through the worst gusting winds we have encountered on the trip as of yet. Weather was again definitely beginning to play a role in our decisions for where we would head to next. We had failed to notice during our planning that northern Arizona and New Mexico are both quite high in elevation. It’s like a giant plateau averaging out at about 1800m between the Grand Canyon and Albuquerque New Mexico which is where we are now. As a comparison when we were driving through the Canadian Rockies via Jasper the highest elevation that the road reached was only about 900 metres. So everyone knows the higher you go the colder it gets and you feel it on the bike. Therefore we opted for the fastest route to Albuquerque from Flagstaff to visit Elise an old friend of mine who we promised to stop by and say hello to when we are in the area.

Continued below…

It has now been roughly a week and a half since we arrived. We spent the first night in Albuquerque with Bronson and Karl, two lovely people my cousin Asa put us in touch with. But otherwise we’ve spent a lot of time with Elise, her husband Chris, and baby Iris who is 6 months old. I used the time to place some orders online for bike parts and tyres which were then shipped to Elise’s address. I ordered a new front sprocket, front and rear brake pads, a new thermo switch, new front and rear tyres (MEFO Super Explorers) and, heated grips. I didn’t install the sprocket or brake pads as the current ones aren’t worn out yet but I thought it’s better to order them now than try to get them in Central America. Installed the heated grips, changed the oil, changed the o-ring on the gear selector sensor which had been seeping oil for the past 2000km but not enough to warrant a job of its own, and most proudly I changed my first front tyre by hand. It was some job for me though because I chose a tyre with an extra heavy duty side wall, it was not very flexible and quite difficult to get onto the rim. Hopefully this new tyre will last until South America, I haven’t changed the rear one yet because it’s not worn out yet. We’ll carry the new rear one for another 2000km or so before mounting it.

We have been contemplating leaving our camping gear here in Albuquerque. We noticed that in the USA that it costs 25-30 dollars a night for a tent spot in a camp ground when it costs 30-40 dollars for a Motel room and Motel rooms are far more abundant. Not only that but when I say it costs 25-30 dollars for a tent spot that is only when you’re lucky enough to actually find a “campground” that allows tents. Most campgrounds say no tents, RVs (massive campervans) only. It’s a little frustrating that these RV parks call themselves campgrounds online because when you type in a search you get a lot of hits for campgrounds but fact is most won’t allow tents. You can of course camp with your tent in National Parks but most of the time we haven’t been in or near one when we’re looking for somewhere to bed down. This scenario got us thinking and I checked with some others who have travelled through central and south America by motorbike whether they used their camping gear or not. The feedback was unanimous in saying don’t bring it, it’s not necessary. This would work out great for the ride and handling of the bike, dropping 10kg and two cumbersome bags from the side panniers can only be a good thing. Anyway the decision hasn’t been made yet, we’ll see.

Albuquerque is the home of the TV show Breaking Bad and we arrived on the tail end of a huge fan fest. I have to admit I’ve never watched the series but it seems everybody else on the planet has, Elise and Chris used to live just around the corner from the main character Walter White’s house (at least the house where he was supposed to live) so one day we went over and chatted with the owner (see pics). When we arrived Netflix were filming a documentary outside, she told us people come every day and sometimes try to throw pizzas on her roof but all in all she seemed to like the attention.

We have been on several hikes around Albuquerque including one to Tent Rock National Monument about an hour north of the city. Also as we are in New Mexico which is home to the development of the first nuclear bomb there is a museum of Nuclear Science in Albuquerque which was worth the visit. It was pretty strange to walk around it and view all of the various types of nuclear ordinance which has been developed over the years. The Trinity Site which is where the first nuclear detonation took place is about 3 hours south of Albuquerque but its only open to visitors once a year in April.

Next on the schedule is Mexico, we haven’t made our mind up yet where to enter and whether to travel down the east or the west coast. Sometime over the next two weeks we should be crossing the border, if east then through Texas, if west the San Diego or Yuma. Whichever way the wind blows.